Friday, November 27, 2009

Are Boots walking the talk?

In a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee enquiry the professional standards director for Boots, Paul Bennett may have had a Gerald Ratner moment, telling the committee that Boots have no scientific evidence that Homeopathic remedies work, but they sell them because customers want to buy them.

Gerald Ratner is infamous for his remark during an after dinner speech when he said Ratners could sell products so cheaply beacuse they were crap. Customers stopped shopping at Ratners as this insulted them, and maybe highlighted a suspected truth they were happy to ignore previously but no longer could. Similarly, the statement made by Paul Bennet of Boots can be seen to be insulting to customers who purchase them from Boots, and exposes Boots as greedy and unethical if we choose to view them that way.

So will it cause them a problem? I suspect overall it won't be an issue. Partly because reporting of the issue, to date, has been less than that given to Gerald Ratner's comments but also because the comments only apply to a small portion of the range sold by Boots whilst Ratner was refering to a large amount of the business.

However, my main concern is how the issue highlights the importance of ensuring corporate actions match words. On Boots website, in the section on CSR in the marketplace it states:
"So it's part of our heritage to treat our customers fairly and act with integrity in everything we do, rather than seizing on the quickest and easiest way to turn a profit." link here.
This statement is not reflected in that given before the committee in relation to homeopathic remedies where they do seem to be saying that they are profitable so even if they don't do what they say Boots are happy to profit if customers are gullible enough to pay.

It is all about Managing Corporate Reputation, the title and subject of one unit in the CIM Chartered Post-Graduate Diploma syllabus, completion of whihc should help students to avoid issues such as this.

Some reporting on the issue from The Telegraph and The Times

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Top International Student

Not strictly SPA Professional Academy, but a student I taught in Kiev at the International Institute of Business was yesterday presented with the award for the top International Student for the Chartered Institute of Marketing Professional Post-Graduate Diploma Managing Marketing Performance module. Congratulations to Natalia for her success - it is a great achievement for an international student to get the highest marks on any paper, especially at this level. Obviously I am very pleased to have played a part in helping Natalia do so well, but most of the credit has to go to her for the hard work which she put in for the exams. I do know from marking a mock exam paper the standard of work which must have been presented, my congratulations go to Natalia and all the other students who were successful.

It was great to meet up with so many students yesterday and be able to share in their celebration at the ceremony. I'll post some pictures up if any of my students send me some, please!

Andrew Sherratt

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

All change at M&S

For the first time since the 1950's M&S are to sell branded products rather than just their own St Michael products. This represents a major change in branding strategy for the retailer. Over recent years the retailer have gradually introduced some additional brands, starting with Per Una and Autograph in their clothing department, and then selling some branded electrical items and more recently newspapers which obviously have their own brands.

The move brings M&S into line with other food retailers, enabling their customers to purchase a much wider range of products, but will this dilute a key part of the M&S experience and reason for going to them rather than elsewhere? I guess only time will tell but Stuart Rose says it is in response to customer requests, and he has done a pretty good job of turning the fortunes of M&S round so he is probably right again.

Another interesting development to watch over the coming year.

More details on The Times

Signs of recovery? Or not?

There are two interesting, but possibly contrasting, stories are in the news today from the motor industry in terms of the economic situation and how it is affecting two companies.

Firstly, the good news comes from GM who have decided not to sell their European business due to "an improving business environment for GM over the past few months". Having been one of the bigger casualties of the economic downturn it seems that GM now see the prospects improving and can manage their business without having to raise the money the sale of Opel and Vauxhall would have brought - this has to be good news for many sectors, not just the automotive industry. There are many news stories about this, one being from The Times or BBC News

The second news, which may not be as good, is that Toyota have announced they are pulling out of Formula 1 with immediate effect, citing as the reason as "the current severe economic realities" which indicates that Toyota do not have as positive an outlook as GM, in itself quite a turnaround from recent trading for both organisation. Whilst there are undoubtedly additional reasons behind the Toyota announcement, it does reflect that there are still concerns regarding the economic climate for the foreseeable future. More on the Toyota story at Autosport

Of course, there was a third story this week, which was the announcement by Ford of profits of nearly $1bn profit in the 3rd quarter - indicating that their cost cutting efforts are working and that the worst of times may be past for Ford, and linked with the GM announcement does it mean that things are better in the US than Japan? I am not sure about that as Toyota sell a large number of cars in the US, but it is an interesting situation. More on this story at BBC News

In terms of the GM story, I hope the UK Unions are right to be pleased with the decision, although unfortunately I don't really see the prospects for long term UK jobs being any better under GM ownership than they would have been under Magna ownership. But that is a subject for another area completely!